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Hands-on Gear Review
Merrell Capra Venture Mid GTX Review
Cons: Low comfort, poor durability, noisy
Bottom line: The heaviest of the lightweight models, this hiker scores above-average in traction and stability, but was found lacking in comfort and durability.
We were initially very excited to get this new boot from Merrell onto our feet, as this footwear manufacturer's reputation is a good one. Some of our reviewers have had pairs of Merrells that lasted years and years. However, the Merrell Capra Venture Mid GTX Surround didn't live up to this company's generally high standards. Its performance in our comfort and durability metrics was, in short, lacking. This lightweight hiker does have some redeeming qualities, as it breathes exceptionally well and provides better traction and stability than most of its competitors in its class. However, this boot feels very techy, without much efficiency.
We preferred the very similar Vasque Inhaler II GTX, another breathable and lighter boot that also resembles a trail runner. Or if you're wishing for more foot comfort, look no further than the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit Mid WP, our Top Pick for Lightweight Hiker.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hiking Boots of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Capra Venture seems to have a split personality, as it feels part hiking boot, part trail running shoe. This makes for a fairly lightweight and fast-moving hiking boot that still has something to offer in terms of stability and traction. Costing $230, this hiking boot didn't score as high in our metrics as its price tag. We think there is plenty of room for improvement in the comfort and durability of this product.
The Capra Venture landed in the middle of the road in the comfort metric. Its rockered outsole was well received by its reviewers, as we tended to prefer this feature in other models like the Tor Summit and the Lowa Tiago GTX Mid too. This boot is one of the most breathable boots in this review, just behind the Inhaler II. For lacing up, the Merrell has five lower, one middle webbing, and two upper metal hook eyelets. The very flexible upper easily allows for adjustments up and down the lacing system, and our heel fit into the heel cup nicely.
We weren't big fans of the overall design of this boot. The upper is extremely light, but the mid and outsoles are significantly heavier, creating an unbalanced feeling of heavy bottoms and light top. Furthermore, the thin upper doesn't provide much protection on the outside of the ball of our feet, nor around the base of the pinky toes. Stepping through loose rocks quickly caused discomfort in the feet. We wished the rubber toe protection at the front of the boot extended further back toward the arch of the foot. Lastly, this was the only model in this review described as 'noisy'. A crinkling sound similar to the sound of an emergency blanket being wadded up comes from the toe box with almost every step.
Tying with the Tiago, this boot provides the most stability of the lightweight models featured in this review. Measuring 5.75 inches from footbed to the ankle collar and 4.5 across the forefoot, this model provides solid support underfoot and impressive ankle stability for a lightweight boot. The molded nylon arch shank adds rigidity to the sole, making it as rigid as most of the midweight models in this review.
The Capra Venture had mixed results throughout the traction test. It performed poorly on wet rock, but excelled on the dry ones. Its shallow lugs aren't very aggressive on this Vibram outsole, and therefore gave an average performance in mud. It also climbed scree slopes sufficiently. Similar to the "Climbing Zone" at the front of the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX outsole, this product has a flattened area under the toes for more purchase when smearing and climbing. For the ultimate in climbing from a hiking shoe, check out the Asolo Jumla GV, our Top Pick for Scrambling.
The Capra Venture weighed the heaviest on our scale of all lightweight hikers in this review, hitting 2.6 lbs. This is still several ounces less than the closest midweight, the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, but over half a pound heavier than the ultralight Columbia North Plains II Mid.
With a 5.5 inch flood level, this boot offers average water resistance. The Gore-Tex Surround waterproof membrane held up well as we stomped through creeks and flexed our forefoot in Lake Tahoe during the five minute underwater test. The boots also dried just an hour slower than the Tor Summit and the Tiago.
We found the durability of the Capra Venture to be well below average. After just one month of off and on use, the seams attaching the rubber toe protector to the synthetic mesh upper began to come undone on both feet. Additionally, the light grey stitching on the mesh above the toebox started to wear away after two months. Especially considering its hefty price tag, we were disappointed by this boot's performance in this category.
This boot is in its element on groomed trails with light or no packs, especially when you're trying to eat up some mileage. It's lightweight and rockered outsole will get you to your destination quickly on easy terrain. However, we don't recommend it for any rough terrain, or with a heavy pack.
As we recommend for nearly any hiking boot, we think applying a seam sealer to the heavy wear areas of the boot is a great idea. It should increase the longevity of its waterproofing abilities, as well as the life of the boot itself.
For $230, we prefer to get more performance out of our hiking boots. The Capra Venture doesn't deliver at or even close to the same level as the Quest 4D II or Renegade, both also listed at $230.
The Merrell Capra Venture certainly stands out, but that's largely due to its appearance and high price. We typically love footwear from this manufacturer, but this model missed their normally high mark. It does perform well in stability and traction for a lightweight model, but it was lacking too much in the comfort and durability departments for us to really sing its praises.
— Ross Robinson
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